During our 2018 trip to Big Corn Island, Nicaragua, we had the pleasure of helping a furry version of Miss Miley Cyrus. This Miley was a big chunky, 9 year old female Doberman who came to see us at the clinic the first day. Unfortunately, Miley was not doing well – she had been losing weight for a few weeks, and in the past week had stopped eating all together and was very lethargic. After examining her and running our tick test, we found out the poor girl was positive for heartworms, ehrlichia, and had a pyometra!
Pyometra is an infection that intact female dogs get in their uterus that can be an emergency! Sometimes after a heat cycle, or even just randomly, they can develop an infection in their uterus that then often becomes a systemic infection and makes them very sick. They will present like Miley – not eating, lethargic, often running a fever, sometimes vomiting, and generally not doing well. Sometimes they can have vaginal discharge too, but not always – which can make it harder to pinpoint this infection! In Miley’s case, she did have some discharge, so it helped us to determine that was going on in her. Luckily the treatment is performing a spay and getting the uterus out – so it’s a pretty straightforward condition to treat.
Her other problems though, being heartworm and ehrlichia positive, definitely made it a more difficult situation. Which problem was causing her to be the most sick? Was treating one going to put her at risk with the others? They can also have some of her symptoms from advanced heartworm disease, and having untreated heartworms makes it very unsafe to put them under anesthesia….so what to do?? After discussion with the owner, we decided that we all felt her pyometra was the thing that was making her the most sick. This meant that we chose to take the risk and proceed with getting her spayed to try to save her. I honestly felt that without the surgery, we were going to lose her, so we had to take a chance.
Now, performing this scary procedure here in the states is one thing – we have a climate controlled building, they are on an IV fluid pump with IV antibiotics and pain medications, they are on inhalant anesthesia that is super safe and we can titrate during the procedure, and we have an EKG monitoring their heart. They would also stay in the hospital for at least 24 hours post-op to ensure they are healing ok and we cover them with antibiotics and fluids! On BCI? Not QUITE the same options – we didn’t have oxygen or inhalant anesthesia, no hospital, no longterm fluids, no IV antibiotics, no monitors – just injectable medications that we would keep giving mini doses extra as needed to give more time under anesthesia. She did have a catheter and she got pain medications and fluids, and our fearless tech leader, Kira, monitored her the whole procedure. It was super stressful, but in true hardy island dog fashion, Miley did great! I was sooo worried about her overnight – she was one of the very last animals to leave that night, and I made her owners promise to bring her back the next day.
Sure enough, back she came and she looked so much better already – she was brighter and had even started eating that morning! We loaded her up with more fluids and supportive care, and they came back every day for more support the entire time we were there! By the day we left, she was doing amazing, eating and drinking great, and was started on her treatment for her heartworms too. She is a great example of a kind and loving family who just didn’t have access to the care she needed. I am so thankful that we were there that week – I know that poor Miley was not going to be with us much longer, so I’m grateful our timing worked out and we could save a life!! Lots of other wonderful dogs and cats also receive life-saving care every time we go, which is why this trip is so important – what we are doing on that island is truly saving lives, and making a difference one pet at a time.